AimPoint Express – The Solution to Your Putting Woes?
Over the last two years I have been hearing more and more about a green-reading system called AimPoint Express, and how golfers using it have significantly improved their putting performance. I have been struggling with my putting lately despite a dramatic improvement in my ball striking (which took a ton of work), and it’s been holding me back from jumping to the next level as a golfer. I wanted to find out if Aimpoint Golf could help.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding AimPoint Express and what it actually does. You may have seen Adam Scott or Lydia Ko holding up their fingers like this during a television broadcast and wondering what exactly they were doing.
Well so was I, and I booked a session with one of their top instructors, John Hobbins.
I wanted to learn AimPoint Golf, and then report back to all of you whether or not it is a putting process worth pursuing.
But before we get to AimPoint Express, I want to discuss a troubling trend that I see happening in the golf world these days.
Bomb it, and Don’t Worry About the Rest
If you’ve been paying attention to the professional game and advanced statistics you will probably come away with a few key takeaways:
- You need to hit the ball farther
- You don’t need to be all that accurate as long as you accomplish task #1
- What happens around, and on the green wasn’t as important as we once thought it was.
I don’t necessarily take issue with #1 or #2 despite the difficulty of achieving those goals, but #3 doesn’t sit well with me for a number of reasons.
Strokes gained analysis has effectively tried to leave putting in the dust. They say it’s so hard that it’s not a part of the game where you affect your score as much as your tee shots and approach shots.
This is a topic I continue to debate, and I won’t go into too much detail but I can tell you that if you are a golfer looking to lower your scores, I believe that the relative effort it takes to become a better putter (or wedge player) is far less than it takes to improve your ball striking.
In other words, you can impact your scores more quickly by learning how to become a more effective putter rather than trying to learn how to hit your driver 20-30 yards farther and hit more greens with your iron shots.
Bonus Content: Be sure to check out my complete guide to putting.
Not to mention the psychological benefits of becoming a better putter. Have you ever missed a three-foot putt for par during a critical part of your round? How did you feel on the next tee shot, did those negative feelings linger for a few holes??
If you can limit those three putts and make a few more inside 10 feet, that can easily eliminate 3-5 strokes for golfers who are struggling to reach various scoring milestones.
I’ve thrown this quote around a few times and it continues to ring true:
Not every golfer has the ability to become a better ball striker, but every golfer has the ability to have a great short game.
How many of you reading this would like to shave that many strokes off your games? I’m going to guess quite a few…
What is AimPoint Express?
Golf is a game of proximity, and putting is no different. The closer you are to the hole, the better your chances of making the putt. Making the correct read on putts is an essential part of that task.
AimPoint Golf is a green reading system. It gives you a process to evaluate the break and speed on a green more effectively so you can choose the proper line that will help you make more putts, but more importantly leave your initial attempts closer to the hole.
Golfers at all levels struggle with reading greens properly for a number of reasons. Much of it has to do with the fact that there is not a whole lot of information out there, and much of it is simply not true.
On top of that, the teaching community has mostly overlooked putting. So it’s not a surprise that most players struggle with three putting and making putts inside the magic 10-foot zone. Putting is just not considered as sexy as the long game, and teachers have to gravitate towards what their students demand.
Mark Sweeney, the founder of AimPoint Express, sought to provide a factual solution to this problem. As someone with a background in software development, he thought there must be a way to solve the issue of reading greens properly with technology. Using sophisticated computer models, and analyzing hundreds of thousands of putts, he came up with a system based on scientific data that was able to accurately predict where a putt would break, and how much.
The first iteration of AimPoint Golf was seen as too technical, and the critics claimed that it was too hard to understand and implement on the course. This is why AimPoint Express was invented, and since then it seems like this putting system has started to take off.
To date more than 50,000 golfers have learned from AimPoint Golf. There are over 300 certified instructors worldwide, 250 touring professionals, 45 worldwide wins, and three #1 players that have used the system including Lydia Ko and Adam Scott.
The Golf Channel has used their data during broadcasts, and for those efforts Mark Sweeney was awarded an Emmy.
Despite that, the general golfing population still does not know much about the system. I myself was a bit confused about how it actually worked, and if it was effective. So I reached out to John Hobbins, who is a Level III certified instructor. John is the owner of the Greenside Golf Academy in New York City, and was recognized as the Metropolitan PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015.
We spent a few hours at St. Georges Country Club in East Setauket, NY.
AimPoint Golf Simplified
I won’t go into every single detail about AimPoint Express, but let me take you through some of the basics.
The cornerstone of this system is that you don’t use your eyes. The first thing John Hobbins did was lay down these three cards to illustrate a point.
It’s an optical illusion, and the one on the right appears smaller, but when they are switched you can see that they were all actually the same size.
Moral of the story, your eyes don’t always show you the truth, especially when looking at the slope of a green.
So what sense do you use? It’s actually your feet, and feeling your weight distribution and where gravity is ultimately pulling you. AimPoint Golf has a system of numbered slopes that you learn to feel with your feet and legs (all while your eyes are closed).
The idea is that once you start to learn how to hone in on the actual slope (which is assigned a number of 1 through 6), you almost never miss which direction the putt is heading, but more importantly how much.
Confused, But Not Overwhelmed
I’ll be honest with you, for the first 30 minutes of the lesson my head was spinning a bit. I was defaulting back to using my eyes, wasn’t confident that I could actually feel the slope with my feet, and then translate that into the correct read.
There are 6 different variations of slope that you can identify with your feet. Based on the length of the putt, you might need to take several reads close to your intended line. Remember it’s against the rules of golf to stand on your actual line to get the read, so AimPoint Express defaults to using the low side of where the putt is breaking.
Once you have identified the severity of the break, you then use your fingers to line up the putt with your dominant eye. This sounds a bit strange, but once you get it honed in you start to see how uncanny the accuracy is.
The hardest thing about doing AimPoint Golf initially, at least for me, is to go against the instinct of using your eyes to read a putt. I actually do use my feet plenty of times to read putts. Many golfers naturally have figured it out themselves over the years, whether or not they knew they were actually doing it.
I believe that could be the differentiating factor with golfers who are successful with AimPoint Express, and those that aren’t. You have to commit to what your feet are telling you, and not second-guess by using your eyes.
When you start to really hone in on your weight distribution, and pick up on the signals that gravity is sending to you, something interesting starts to occur. After about 90 minutes I started to really improve at selecting the correct number for the break. You can actually verify it using a digital level like this one. It’s how many people who use the system practice.
You start testing yourself. Is this a break of 3? Or is it 2? Towards the end of the lesson when I got it correct, and made a great stroke, the ball tracked towards the hole like a laser beam. At that point my initial suspicion subsided quite a bit.
There’s something kind of freaky about it to be honest. There were several putts where my eyes couldn’t determine which way it was breaking, and my feet ultimately revealed the truth.
Is it Worth it?
When I first spoke with John Hobbins he told me that no one has ever come away from one of his clinics and not shown improvement in their putting. After spending 3 hours with him on a Sunday, I don’t think that’s a far-fetched statement.
AimPoint Express certainly takes some practice and effort, but the essential basics of green reading that it illustrates to a golfer are going to help them. Like I said earlier, most golfers were never taught how to read greens effectively, and AimPoint Golf can certainly help those players.
Like any skill, how far you take it is going to be up to you. The reason why I like AimPoint Golf is because it gives you a process on the greens. That is one of the most important parts to becoming a successful putter. Most players step up to their ball without any kind of routine, and just hope that that their putts end up near the hole.
Indecision and second-guessing usually prevent that from happening though.
At the minimum, just being able to determine which direction a putt is going to break will save strokes on the course.
So if you are someone who is sick and tired of all of the three putts during your round, and all of those testy 6 footers slipping by the edge of the cup, I would recommend checking AimPoint Golf out, and connecting with one of your local instructors.
There’s a lot of stuff in the golf world that strikes me as dubious in nature, but I don’t believe AimPoint Golf is one of them. It’s an extremely practical (I love that word!) process that isn’t complicated. I’m going to be using it from now on, and like any other change I make to my game, I will try and remain patient with the process because I believe it will pay off in the long term.
I think you’re going to see this system getting more and more popular as the years go on, and more golfers will start to embrace it. You can learn more about AimPoint Golf, and find their instructors on their site. They also have a DVD which gives an introduction to the system to get you started. If you are interested in connected with John Hobbins, you can find him on his site at the Greenside Golf Academy in New York City.